Sugar Industry Asks U.S. to Cut W.H.O. Funding After Negative Report

The U.S. sugar industry is lobbying the Bush administration to
cut its funding of the World Health Organization after a recent
W.H.O. report warned consumers to cut their sugar intake.

The Sugar Association, along with six other food industry
groups, has requested that Health and Human Services Secretary
Tommy Thompson ?use his influence to get the W.H.O. report
withdrawn? before its planned release tomorrow, reports Sarah
Boseley in the London-based Guardian. And in a letter to
W.H.O. Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland, industry officials
threatened to challenge the organization?s $406 million funding
from the U.S., declaring that America?s tax dollars should not be
utilized ?to support misguided, non-science-based reports which do
not add to the health and well-being of Americans, much less the
rest of the world.? The correspondence illustrated the industry?s
resolve to ?promote and encourage new laws? that will limit future
W.H.O. funding to reports ?supported by the preponderance of
science.?

The report advises that ?sugar should account for no more that
10 percent of a healthy diet,? a view industry executives say is
?scientfically flawed.? They insist that one-quarter of a healthy
diet can ?safely consist of sugar.? The W.H.O. figure is based on
the recommendations of international nutritional experts. Sugar
industry statistics are supported by research from International
Life Sciences Institute, an organization founded by Coca-Cola,
Pepsi, General Foods, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble, and a recent
report by the independent Institute of Medicine. But in a letter
last week to Secretary Thompson, institute president Harvey
Fineberg said that industry leaders had misinterpreted the report,
which he said did not make a sugar intake recommendation. The
controversy is only the latest in a 13-year battle between
scientists and the sugar industry. In 1990 the W.H.O. International
Obesity Taskforce recommended the same 10 percent sugar intake, and
the World Sugar Organization responded with a massive lobbying
effort, convincing 40 ambassadors to challenge the report, as it
would ?do irreparable damage to countries in the developing world.?
In 2000, Aubrey Sheiham, professor of dental public health at
University College, London, Medical School, was asked to help
create an EC guideline called Eurodiet. ?The sugar people said that
if the 10 percent [limit] was in, the whole report would be
blocked,? he recalls. In they end, the committee agreed to a
compromise stating that the 10 percent figure was equivalent to
eating sugar no more than four times a day.

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